Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.

What to Do with Food and Liquid Offerings

9 Comments

I stumbled across and participated in a discussion on tumblr about a blog post discussing what to do with offerings after they are given to a god.  What left most folks disliking it was the attempt to make a generic Neo-Pagan protocol of what to do with offerings without acknowledging it necessarily as such.  This also left some people dissatisfied with the post because it was impossible for them to not ingest food and drink offerings due to their financial situation.  While she (the author of the initial blog post) clarified it was meant to be a template she proceeded to make classist and racist remarks, which I felt detracted completely from her post.  I’ll address how these issues are prevalent in the Neo-Pagan community in a later post, as it is a serious topic but not the current one.  Instead I’m going to use this incident as a platform to discuss what to do with offerings from a Kemeticist perspective.

Among the top overwhelming questions for a beginner to Kemeticism is what to do with offerings.  I ran into this myself, and it’s a natural one to ask when it’s very likely someone learned about how to handle offerings from mainstream Paganism practices in the first place.   Unlearningthe ideas of offered food belonging to a god or losing its energy gets awkward when learning about practices for Ancient Egypt.  In many ways the philosophies of Ancient Egypt fly in the face of mainstream Paganism.  An area where these differences are apparent emerge when handling food and drink offerings.

In Ancient Egypt food and libations were most likely eaten and drunk.  We know for certain the priests ingested the offerings provided from temple rituals, and how offerings were also distributed to those attending festivals.  Some of the ritual offerings were offered to the dead.  What happened to the food offerings for the dead seem to have been left and not ingested.  With the possible exception of eating food offered to the dead, Egyptologists think it may have been seen as an honor to eat food provided to the gods.  I’m sure on a practical level, however, some of the philosophy behind it was due to the scarcity of the food offered; this was especially so for foods like meat or wine.  Regardless of the practicality the idea of ingesting food as an honor transferred to current religious practices.  Modern Kemeticists tend to believe the god imbues some of its ba in the food and drink, thus eating the food becomes something of a eucharist.

As in the temples Kemeticists today can perform the rituals necessary to make the food and liquid offerings fit for consumption.   It’s a series of rituals referred to collectively as the “Reversion of Offerings”.  The temple rituals consisted, but not limited to,  reciting spells, libations, incense, and extinguishing all flames.  The spells revolved around specifying Who is satiated, how the offerings would revert to the priests and followers, and how the offerings were everlasting.  Most Kemeticits practice an abridged version of the ritual, though members of the Kemetic Orthodoxy add movements such as stepping backwards then forwards a few steps.  When I’m not performing a festival ritual I recite a few of the spells after sweeping behind me.

There are a couple of sources I recommend for those who want to learn more.  The full Reversion of Offerings can be found on JSTOR, but for those who wish to practice the more abridged version I recommend Richard J. Reidy’s Eternal Egypt.

Sources

David, Rosalie.  Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt.  New York: Facts on File, 1998.  Print.
Shafer, Byron E.  Temples of Ancient Egypt.  I.B. Tauris, 2005.  Google books.  Web.  12/20/13.
Teeter, Emily.  Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt.  New York: Cambridge, 2001.  Print.

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9 thoughts on “What to Do with Food and Liquid Offerings

  1. Reblogged this on Fanny Fae and commented:
    A recent kerfuffle has erupted over a Neo-Pagan author’s opinions about how offerings should be handled. I will write more on this later, because the post in question brings to light some very basic differences between how Kemetic practices go and how other faiths in the same geographic region practiced. Below is an absolutely wonderful response and rebuttal that effectively addresses any confusion on the matter as to how offerings should be handled.

  2. Thank you for this. Not just because talking about Egyptian offerings work(ed), but also because I’m glad I’m not even remotely the only person who noticed Tess’ vaguely-racist and blatantly classist remarks. I look forward to your future post on the prevalence of such lamentable attitudes and tropes within the greater “Pagan” community — Western (read: American) society in general, really. It’s an uncomfortable subject that gets swept under the rug far too often. It really needs to be discussed.

  3. Well responded. I saw this linked on another blog and couldn’t believe my eyes. I attempted to explain what was wrong with that sort of supporting evidence, but even though several people have tried to point this out, it gets slammed by knee-jerk guilt of privilege into the sidelines. I just…*sigh*

  4. From what I understand, almost all food and drink given to the Netjeru was reverted for the priests. Perhaps anything too Ausirian in nature got a pass. I don’t know for sure because I know the bare minimum about Ausir and the rites surrounding Him.

    Aside from the food scarcity issue, there’s another way to look at it.

    In ancient Egypt, the productive lands were mostly owned by the state through temples. At a theoretical/religious level, the Netjeru owned *everything*, including the land. So, presenting offerings to the Netjeru was equivalent to one mortal presenting the fruits of the land to another. To not offer was sort of like stealing.

    (Side note: when making offerings, don’t take them away too quickly. That’s also considered stealing! There’s a quote about that in Sauneron, I think, and probably one other place that escapes my memory. I read a lot of Egyptology books, lol.)

    In other words, offerings get presented to the Netjeru so They (or at least Djehuty) can tally those offerings up, take what They want, and then, generously, give some back.

    Obviously it can be and often is more complex than that.

    • I tried to thank you for posting this as I’d forgotten to mention it, but wordpress ate my post. That said, thank you. I’d forgotten all about mentioning this and happy someone could provide that context as well.

  5. Pingback: Kemetic Offerings: Then and Now and Why | The Twisted Rope

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